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Everything posted by naebody

  1. Haven't been to No.12, so not entirely sure what you mean by modern British. Grill Room at the Dorchester will do what most people would recognise as a traditional English menu with a twist. It's very good indeed, as it would have to be at those prices. St John is the obvious choice as a representative of what's happened to British food over the past decade. The audience response is equally divided between "this is simple perfection", and "if I wanted to eat the business end of a pig I'd do it at home". Great Queen Street, and its sister Anchor & Hope, both do superior British pub food of the type you wish you could get at your local boozer. Medcalf and Hereford Road also worth a look if you want something similar in a posher setting. Meanwhile, Boisdale holds the torch as the only decent Scottish restaurant in London. That's not a particularly high watermark though. If what you're looking for is "modern cooking that doesn't fit easily into the category of French, Italian or anything else", I'd probably be off to Foilage. Edit update - Sorry: only just noticed you're from the UK rather than the Johnny Foreigner I automatically assumed, so I guess these suggestions may be a wee bit too pedestrian.
  2. Sunbeam, perhaps what you saw on the Celeb version was for the protection of some precious D-lister's ego. To routinely prepare alternate endings does seem an absurd amount of rigmarole, unless they were counting on putting out an enhanced DVD version of the series.
  3. Is that true? At a time when the BBC One controller has to resign for suggesting the Queen exited a room in a huff (rather than entering a room in a huff), it seems foolhardy to say the least. I'll keep an eye out for the tabloid expose from the disgruntled loser within the next week or so.
  4. Didn't La Tante Claire lose a star in the year it moved from Chelsea to Marble Arch? Something about failing to maintain quality in a bigger room, if memory serves. Given that precedent, Hibiscus can't be guaranteed to keep two. (Incidentally, can anyone confirm or deny the talk about Bosi losing half his brigade in the first month of the London opening?) Michelin obviously awards restaurants, not cooks. Otherwise, somewhere appalling like Mix in Las Vegas would be on the same three-star rating as Louis XV in Monte Carlo, given the same name is at the bottom of the menu. But it's undeniable that they tend to prefer giving new stars to proven cooks -- hence the recognition of Bernares and Arbutus last year, and this year's rumours regarding Tom's Kitchen.
  5. Apologies for quoting myself (the internet equivalent of onanism), but the reader responses to Jay's article illustrate the above point perfectly. While I'm here, agree The Ritz is likely to get a star for its 100th birthday. And, if they go for a democracy theme again, it would also be nice to see Jeremy Lee at the Blueprint Cafe get something to mark a decade of fending off Conran corporate lunacy to do bistro deluxe before it was invented. Doubt he will though.
  6. An archive search reveals that it was was way back last February (oddly enough, I mentioned it in the Mich thread 2007). I know you're a fan though, as evidenced by the above link, so I'll assume it was an off night.
  7. Ahem. Either your reading's cursory or your spelling's wonky. Oh, and to touch on Man's point above: I agree that Patterson's is a nautical mile below star quality (my last meal there, as I think I wrote in this very forum, resembled nothing so much as abatoir sweepings). But the place has been an also-ran for so long that it's always worth a each-way bet. Nevertheless, I'll remove Patterson's from my prediction list and replace it with that pay-per-view tourist fleecer, Galvin at Windows.
  8. Agree. My last four or five meals at Arbies have been really quite disappointing, as was my one visit to WH. Either I've repeatedly hit bad nights, or it's not the same place it was a year ago. Still, I'd fully expect Mich to take the path of least resistance and give WH a star, rather than admit it made a mistake last year. Agree, but does value for money ever come into it? The Grill Room is great at what it does, but it's so expensive you think it's a practical joke at first. I mean, £42 for Dover sole with nothing. Even on Park Lane, that's silly.
  9. Indeed you are. The wisdom of crowds is great for estimating the weight of a bull, or predicting which world leader's next for the chop. But it's terrible when judging important things like art, music and dinner. In short, seven million Barry Manilow fans can be wrong. That's why we need the self-elected arbiters -- The Turner Prize, Michelin, Juke Box Jury -- to show us the inferiority of our tastes. And that's why we should welcome the annual ritual of pointing out the inferiority of theirs. What should happen: Garvoche up to three. Aikens and Aubergine up to two. Magdelen, St John, Galvin and Morgan M gonged. Demotions for L'Atelier, Benares, L'Escargot, Hakkasan, Mirabelle, Rhodes 24 and both Nobus. Meanwhile, Lindsay House, Assaggi, Glasshouse, Arbutus, Zafferano and Tamarind all all told in no uncertain terms that their star is on a shoogly peg. What will probably happen: Greenhouse and Claridges GR-Lite both up to two. Singles for China Tang, Rhodes W1, Pearl and Patterson's. Short-stake, lottery-odds bets on Foilage going to two, with singles for Aurora, Wild Honey, and that unapproachable fish place in Knightsbridge. Least deserved potential star would be a toss-up between Bentley's and Tom's Kitchen. Double for Ducasse, assuming the judges received their bri .. sorry ... got in there before the print deadline. Same applies to the one star for Alan Yau's new Hakke Sake place. Demotion, surely to god, for Nobu Berkeley. (For the full taxi-driver effect, I typed that with the monitor behind my left shoulder.)
  10. The only thing seasonal in my local Sainsbury are the Cream Eggs.
  11. I was impressed and appalled in equal measure by the Beirut branch of Tamaris, Ducasse's take on the theme. If you're looking for another place where the ladies lunch between lunches, twentysomething girls are rich and visitors can be forgiven for requiring an uncomplicated sugar rush, Cambridge would seem appropriate. How do the economics work though? Surely you're not going to shift much alcohol if you're only sending out sweet stuff. Would the faster table turning compensate for the lower income per head? Edit update: Sorry - forgot to answer to your questions: 1- If I'm an out-of-towner with time to spare, I'd definitely visit. But if I'm a local who works weekdays, I'm not so sure I'd use it regularly. 2- It'd be an afternoon-tea type diversion rather than an evening stopover. Only the Americans seem keen to change their venue between courses. Can't see it catching on over here. 3- I want whatever the chef is good at. 4- Something informal, suggesting I wasn't about to get stung with three courses, but also quite glam, suggesting something better than a cake shop. Always thought the bright and clean upstairs level at Yauatcha had that balance right. (Though, given the Cambridge demographic, you'd probably want to make your place a bit more pushchair friendly.)
  12. The Simian Kitchen. Primate Dining. That's one hell of a concept. Perhaps we should pitch this idea to London Zoo. It would be half corporate catering, half zeitgeisty update of the chimps' tea party. Although having said that, I guess that's what's already happening with Hell's Kitchen. In retrospect, I probably could have phrased my thoughts in a less incendiary way. What I meant to suggest was that the skills of a great chef -- ie. someone who creates and masters the preparation of original dishes -- are not necessarily the same as a great cook -- ie. someone who can deliver said dishes at a consistent level in a high-pressure environment. The skill needed to cook is, to use outdated terminology, a left-side brain activity. It can be learned by the right kind of person, who would probably also be able to succeed at myriad disciplines from air traffic control to stock trading. Being a chef is more of a right-sided brain activity, involving the kind of lateral thinking and imagination that's tough to teach. There's nothing whatsoever to stop a great chef being a great cook. But, generally speaking, a kitchen can function without having the skills of a great chef on hand 24-7. What's always, always, always required is a good cook. /backpedal
  13. Let's be honest, there's not much skill required for construction. Most central London restaurants are sending out assemblies, designed so the actual last-mile cooking skill required is minimal. A modestly intelligent chimp could be taught to make most of the menu at Maze, for example, irrespective of whether Jason Atherton was in the kitchen that day. Having a good chef in the kitchen only really matters when quality control would otherwise fail, or when things are going wrong.
  14. This is why Michelin is a rotten barometer of Vegas quality. Anywhere else in the world, its position would be considered a negative. But, in the spirit of the Strip, it seems quite appropriate to be sitting halfway between a bank of TVs and a human meat-market. Having just spent eight days eating around Vegas, I have to say that the one-star list is pretty absurd. L'Atelier, for example: every single item on the menu is padded with mulchy goose liver and transparent curls of stale truffle, for the sake of implied luxury but with no discernable benefit to taste. This is the exact opposite of what Michelin has been trying to recognise elsewhere. They could have given the gongs to places offering a more authentic Vegas experience -- The 9ine Steakhouse at Palms, for instance, which is turning out crowd-pleaser food as proficiently as anywhere local. Or they could have gone the other way and recognised places where the obsession towards pointless excess is kept in check (Bouchon maybe? Or Rosemary's?). What they shouldn't be doing is giving stars to gaudy parodies of proper restaurants. It erodes what little credibility Michelin has left.
  15. As Circeplum points out, the early weeks can be deceptively good as well as deceptively bad. I'm often among the rat-up-a-drainpipe brigade, firstly because I'm a cheapskate, and secondly because I'd like to imagine the person whose name is above the door may actually be in the kitchen. I don't much care whether my meal is a true reflection of form -- I'm having lunch, not writing a dissertation. And more often than not, first-week food seems decent value. (The service is always shambolic, but I'm in no hurry.) Ducasse is a special case. There was no soft opening, meaning he was offering one of London's most expensive menus from day one, and there was never any pretence that he'd be manning the pass even for one service. That strikes of arrogance and cynicism, which is probably why there is so little goodwill left for this operation. Is that how you get rid of them? I thought it had something to do with sunlight and blowing up movie theatres. (Allow that to mark the fatuous low-point of this thread.)
  16. Wouldn't that make it less like a theme park than a zoo? The place doesn't exist so people can come and gawp (that'd be Sketch). It exists so conservative eaters can get aggrandised hotel food at prices that discriminate, sparing the embarrasment of an ugly Boujis-style scene at the door. I can't think of a less appealing dining prospect in London at the moment.
  17. I chose my words carefully. A licenced black cab will indeed cost you £4 above the meter rate. But the chances of getting a licenced black cab in both directions are close to nil. Meanwhile, a minicab will (in my experience) charge twice the usual rate and still expect a hefty tip. Happy holidays.
  18. Fair point, well made. Many of the Ramsay-owned establishments appear to be open. The Devonshire, one of his underwhelming gastropubs, is probably the closest to Heathrow. Or if you can get to Paddington, you'd be within taxi distance of both La Noisette or Boxwood. It's likely to turn into a bit of a cash-guzzling odyssey though (contrary to what's been said, London cab drivers do work on Christmas day, but will charge double rate and expect at tip of at least £10 for their efforts). The other option would be to go to a Garfunkels in the airport. Sad to say, but London's baseline quality and value look pretty poor when compared against Vancouver. And, on Christmas day, you can't be expecting anything other than the baseline. Edit update: On a more general note, I've been stuck in London on the 25th exactly three times. The first, I tried to cook. The second, I went to Little Bay, where for under £30 they'll do a meal that's similar to your mum's, except it's served by Polish girls drunk on cherry vodka. The third I spent on Edgeware Road, smoking shisha and decrying western decadence. Since the smoking ban now rules out option three, I recommend option two.
  19. Time Out lists 50 restaurants open for Winterval. You could probably book a limo and go somewhere west (although TO's westerly selection doesn't look hugely promising). Alternatively, some of the well-regarded Indian places in Southall are likely to be open and reachable by bus.
  20. Temporal accuracy notwithstanding, Tim, I much prefered your unedited version. Mr Coren doesn't remind me at all of Billie Holliday, whereas a grandfather displaying his wedding tackle at inapproprite moments seems to nail it. The missing link here is Charlie McVeigh - previously of Bush Bar & Grill, which pretty much defined the cavernous-venue-decent-food-shambolic-service genre. Perhaps he'll be able to marshall the East European front of house into something functional within six months. Iqbal Wahhab managed it at Roast against similar odds, so you never know.
  21. The Hibiscus menu is a case in point. Three courses are £49.50. While the cost of the ingredients must be less than a tenth of that, I don't mind that as I'm paying for a clever chef to do clever things to them. However, I do mind that the langoustine ravioli and the sausage roll come with surcharges of £7.50 and £12.50 respectively. So do these dishes involve extra labour that's getting charged to me pro-rata? Or are the supplements to cover the cost of the ingredients? And if it's the latter, is it charged at cost price or at a 90% markup? Restaurateurs: here's how you should be working it. Stick a high-value item on the fixed price which involves lobster, truffle or whatever, even if it means taking a lower profit margin for that dish. However, make a small quantity that's guaranteed to run out midway through service. That way, the late evening diners will get the impression of good value, which will help encourage repeat custom in the earlier timeslots. It's basically an early bird deal by stealth.
  22. As I mention upthread, there are Bengali restaurants on Brick Lane, but they're heavily disguised to blend in with the touts and chicken balti menus of their surroundings. Places such as Gram Bangla, for example, run a tourist menu and a locals menu. It takes some cajoling to find out what's on the latter, but it's usually worth the effort. Time Out did a good article on this a while back.
  23. Well that's just bollocks. Anyway, back to the subject. Places that do the £25 glass of champagne trick are invariably tourist traps, keener to exploit cultural embarrasment than to attract repeat trade. For all his "three stars in my heart" bullshit, I'm afraid this operation looks as cynical as a Soho clip joint.
  24. That's some heavy-duty ennui you've got going on there. I propose that you blow your budget on a nice bottle of Henri Giraud Fut de Chenes, then take it to The Golden Hind for fish and chips.
  25. Sure. While Paris is the most-visited city in the world, it's also one of the most intimidating for holidaymakers to eat. All the menus are in foreign and all the waiters hate you. If you don't do the research, or are using last year's guidebook, each meal carries with it a better-than-average chance of feeling cheated, hungry, and lighter by several hundred euros. You also have to remember that choosing an special occasion venue in most cities is easy. If you want the Officially Certified Best Restaurant in London, you go to RHR. When in New York, it's Per Se or Jean Georges. But Paris has ten three-star restaurants, and I doubt many people outside France could pick their names out of a phonebook. That's where the appeal of a brand name like Ramsay comes in. It provides terrified foreigners a sense of security as well as of luxury. Think of it as the Marais branch of McDonalds, except with more marriage proposals. I've waited decades for someone to say that. Where were you when I was 14?
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